Traveler safety should be number one priority for anyone managing business travel. It’s not just about large events like a health crisis or natural disaster; a traveler might be involved in a road traffic accident or get into trouble while entertaining clients. In any of these scenarios, it is important that your organization has a strategy and processes in place to make sure employees are safe.
Safety is often referred to as duty of care in the business travel industry. Regulations have made organizations more accountable for looking after travelers when they are on a business trip, but any strategy should go beyond a tick box exercise.
Know where your travelers are
In times of uncertainty or crisis, it is important to know where your travelers are. Most travel buyers and TMCs use a travel risk specialist, such as WorldAware or International SOS, to help manage travel risk. They do this by matching data feeds showing where risks are, to travel data booked through the TMC or online booking tool. This way, travel managers can see how many travelers are in a country or city.
At Travel and Transport, our Command Center monitors various news, weather and security sources for threats and disruption. If there is an emergency, affected travelers receive an email and push notification on our Dash Mobile app.
Get travel bookings in one place
Monitoring travelers’ whereabouts is significantly more difficult if you do not have mandated channels where employees book and manage travel. When employees are booking travel across different websites or companies, it is challenging, and time-consuming, to get their location information quickly in an emergency. It means that you do not truly know where your travelers are.
This is part of the reason why many organizations work with travel management companies and travel booking tools. When you mandate a travel policy and enlist preferred suppliers, the company gets better visibility over where travelers are at any given time, as the trip data is in one place. Procuring the suppliers is just one part of it though; the implementation will involve a lot of communication and guidance to your traveling employees.
Involve other departments
With any strategy it is important to involve other departments. When it comes to travel safety, you will want to engage with these groups.
- Security/risk will advise on steps to take. Get a list of key locations for your business and assess the risks – for some destinations you may need to take extra security steps.
- HR will have a hand in the travel policy, so this extends to duty of care too.
- Legal will know where you stand with regulations and insurance.
- Marketing/communications can help get the message out and with the right phrases.
- Your company’s most frequent travelers will provide insight into what the policy is like in practice, and where they might feel vulnerable.
Communicating in a crisis
How would you contact your travelers if there is an incident? How will they contact you if they find themselves in trouble? Think about two-way communication channels.
When travelers are on the road, their mobile phone will be their main point of contact. Email, SMS and apps will be the main sources of getting vital information to them. The messaging will vary depending on the situation and what you want the traveler to do as a result. Your security/risk team can help identify risks and tier them, so your crisis communications can match the severity of the situation. Often a travel management company will have an automated messaging system, such as Bolt Alerts.
To communicate with travelers, you will need their most up to date contact information. It is important that their HR/travel profiles are kept up to date, including next of kin should they need to be informed of the situation.
Think about company nuances and trip briefings
The travel risk strategy needs to match the nuances of your travel policy.
For example, do you often see travelers extending their business travel trips so they have their own leisure time? Where do you stand legally if something happens to them while they are on the leisure part of the trip?
Buyers will need to work with the risk/safety team to provide detailed trip briefings. Even when travelers are visiting cities like New York or Paris, you should make them aware of areas to avoid or cultural nuances.
While some of the information might seem like common sense, it is worth reiterating. When people travel, particularly overseas, they loosen their inhibitions and do things they may not otherwise.
Duty of care programs need consistent evaluation to ensure your company has all the necessary precautions in place. Your travel management company has a responsibility to help you ensure your travel program fits with your travel policy and organizational culture.